Online Marketing for Startups: A Step by Step Beginner’s Guide
Ready to start getting the word out about your startup? Then you need a marketing strategy. Of course, in a world filled with advice on content marketing, email marketing, local marketing, mobile marketing, search engine marketing, and social media marketing, it’s hard to tell where you should start. Fortunately, we can make the process for you with this step by step guide on how to get started with your online marketing strategy.
Everything begins with your website – essentially, it will be your potential customer’s first impression of your brand. While you don’t have to spend a fortune on it, you do want it to look good. Your best bet is to look at similar businesses’ web designs and make sure yours fits a similar mold, as that is what your potential customers are going to be familiar with.
One of the most popular CMS (content management system) platforms is WordPress. This platform will allow you to create a main website with the basics – about page, features page, services page, pricing page, etc. – along with a blog, which we will discuss later in this guide. Businesses using WordPress can choose from hundreds upon thousands of pre-built themes that can be customized for your brand, or can outsource to developers for custom built themes.
Here are the main elements you will want to focus on for your website.
Aside from just looking good, your website needs to function properly as well. The big trend is responsive design – web designs that adapt to the screen resolution of the viewer so that they can display content to users on desktop browsers, tablets, and smartphones alike. So no matter what CMS, template, or designer you go with, make sure the final product is using responsive design.
3. Search Optimization
Your homepage, along with the above mentioned essential pages, should be optimized for search from the get go. This means that you will want to choose a main keyword phrase for each of those pages and include it in the page’s title, URL, meta description, content, and image ALT text. For websites built on WordPress, you can use the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin to easily optimized each of these fields for all of your pages and future blog content.
Social Media Profiles
Next, you will want to establish your brand on social media. While you can claim your name on every social media network imaginable using services like KnowEm, you can also just start with the main networks and properties: a Facebook page, Twitter profile, LinkedIn company page, Google+ page, and Pinterest business account. These are the most important ones to claim and establish your brand on.
Once established, you’ll want to (at bare minimum) keep your Facebook and Twitter up to date, daily if possible as these will be the top two networks your potential customers discover you upon.
Here are the main elements you will want to focus on for your social profiles and pages.
1. Great Cover and Profile Photos
With exception to Pinterest, each of the top networks mentioned require a large cover photo or banner image to represent your brand, along with a square profile photo. While the profile photo is generally your logo or the main person behind your brand, the cover photos and banners will require a bit of design work. You can hire professionals like Social Identities to design custom artwork for your cover photos and banners, or you can try your hand at creating your own with free tools like Canva.
2. Completed Information
Be sure to fill out everything on your profiles and pages. Each piece of information helps social networks to connect you with the customers who are looking to do business with you. Keep in mind the main keywords you optimize your website for too – those can be useful in your profile and page bios for discovery in social search.
Beyond just updating your social profiles and pages, you will have the responsibility of monitoring them as well. For example, Facebook allows people to post to your wall, comment on your posts, and send you private messages. Twitter allows people to mention your @username and send you private messages. You need to monitor each of these avenues so that you can quickly reply to any comments from your potential customers.
Want to get leads before you’re up and running, or the moment you are ready to go? Get your email list in place. You can do this by signing up with an mailing list service like GetResponse, Constant Contact, or Aweber.
For businesses who haven’t fully launched yet, you can set up an opt-in form on your website that asks people to subscribe for updates on your official launch. For any business, pre or post launch, you can set up an opt-in form that asks people to subscribe in order to download a freebie such as an informative ebook or whitepaper that relates to their business. For businesses who have launched, you can set up an opt-in form that asks people to subscribe to receive a free 5 – 10 day course that ends in with you promoting your products or services.
Here are the main elements you will want to focus on for your email marketing strategy.
1. Lead Magnets
Think of something that would be interesting to your potential customers. For a company that sells women’s fashion, it could be a guide to the latest summer styles. For a veterinarian, it could be a weekly newsletter on how to keep pets healthy. Any business can create a lead magnet – it’s just a matter of figuring out what your potential customers want to know and packaging it up to be delivered via email.
2. Regular Updates
Don’t let your email list subscribers forget about you. Commit to at least one email per week to your list, whether it’s just a summary of your latest blog post or an update on your launch.
You won’t need to worry about this immediately, but in the long run, you will want to regularly remove inactive subscribers – subscribers who have not opened their emails in several months. This will keep your list healthy and keep your costs low as you generally rates based on your number of subscribers.
Once the basics are in place – the website, social profiles, and email list – you will want to start building a library of content. Most businesses focus on creating blog content that will be valuable to their potential and current customer base. You can do this on your own by writing your own posts, reach out to industry experts to see if they are interested in being one-time or regular contributors, or hiring freelance writers to create content for you.
After your blog, you can branch out to other content formats including presentations for SlideShare, videos for YouTube, and podcasts for iTunes. This will help you reach even larger audiences. The key is to create content that appeals to your target customer base.
Here are the main elements you will want to focus on for your content strategy.
1. Content for Customers
While it’s tempting to write for your peers and other industry authorities, your business goal is to get customers. Therefore, you have to create all of your content geared towards your customers interests and needs. Look at your competitors’ blogs to see what they are writing about – chances are, they’ve already got a great list of topics that their customers love.
No matter how good your content is, no one will see it if you don’t promote it. Once you grow your social media audience and mailing list, you can easily promote it to them. Until then, consider promoted posts on Facebook and promoted tweets on Twitter to reach your target audiences.
If you do want to branch out to different content types (presentations, videos, and podcasts), don’t reinvent the wheel. Take topics that are popular on your blog and repurpose them into the different content types. This will mean more audience exposure without having to drum up all new ideas. s
Last, but not least, as a startup, you need coverage. To get coverage, you’re going to need to do a little old fashioned outreach. Find authoritative blogs in your industry, and whose audiences would make for ideal clients, and reach out to them to see if they would be interested in covering your startup or allowing you to contribute guest content to them.
Here are the main elements you will want to focus on for your outreach strategy.
Do your homework before you contact a blog about possibly covering your startup or accepting guest content from you. Know their content, know their audience, and know who to reach out to. Address that person by name and tell them why, based on their content and audience, you feel your startup is the right fit for their blog.
2. Offer Free Trials or Samples
If you have a product, offer the blog owner a free trial or sample so they can be assured that it is something sound that they would want to share with their audience. Even if you feel a giveaway is a generous offer, make the blogger confident that the product is worthy of their audience first.
Pretend the blogger is your best customer. Offer them excellent customer support and service. Let them give you feedback on what would make your product or service better. The better you treat the blogger, the more likely they are to give you the coverage you desire.
If you start these marketing strategies right for your startup as early as possible, you will be well on your way to having the basis of a successful online marketing campaign. As you grow and build your budget, start experimenting with advertising and set up a reputation monitoring system so you can be alerted to each instance when someone talks about your new business!